Lady Bears honored on 25th anniversary of title
When Greg Balcoa and his new wife, Melody, agreed to relocate to teach in Noorvik prior to the 1991 school year, he admitted coaching basketball wasn't the main reason he went. Only a year removed from leading the Selawik Lady Wolves to the Class 1A state title, he was looking to be a teacher. When he found out the school was looking for a coach for the girls' basketball team he agreed to give it a shot.
It was a move that turned into magic for the Northwest Arctic Conference program. In his first season at the helm, he turned the Lady Bears into a dominating force. One that captured the state title in three of the next four seasons.
Balboa's first championship squad was honored at the half of the ASAA Class 1A state championship game on Saturday. Several members of the 1991-92 squad joined Balcoa and his wife at mid-coast for a special ceremony honoring the team on the 25th anniversary of their historic title run.
It was a special reunion for Balcoa, who now serves as an administrator at Rabbit Creek Elementary in Anchorage, and his former players.
"It is great to see them all again," he said. "I can tell with the way they have all been talking to one another that this is something they have enjoyed."
Joining Balcoa on the court during the ceremony were his wife, and former players Lena Cutwater, Kathy Black, Brenda Newlin, and Colleen (Jackson) Hoffman. Adam Romoth attended the event for Shauna (Wells) Ramoth, and Sherri Newlin represented Lois Newlin. Flora Newlin and manager Kim Baldwin were unable to attend.
For Balcoa, the memory of the three championships began with the seven players he inherited.
"They were good athletes, all of them," he said. "I didn't like to play schools our own size so we played in Nome and Anchorage. We got beat a few times, but by the time we got to our class, we did well."
He also credited the village of Noorvik for creating an environment for success.
"In those days, we didn't have cell phones or fancy televisions for entertainment. The entertainment we had there was going to the gym, and the community did a great job of encouraging the kids to go and play basketball," he said. "All of these girls grew up as gym rats, and they loved to play. I remember going down and watching them play the boys ... and sometimes they beat them."
Balcoa said the Lady Bears benefitted from having two of the state's top players in Shauna (Wells) Ramoth and Lois Newlin to build around. Their abilities allowed the rest of the team to excel at various positions.
Ramoth starred on all three of the Balcoa's state title teams.
"(Shauna) was one of the best point guards in the game," he said. "She was really ahead of her time, and Lois was such a great player at center."